Bedford Athletic sunk in ‘game of two halves’ at Harpenden

Bedford Athletic were eventually well beaten at Harpenden by 62 points to 32 in the proverbial game of two halves, writes Jeremy Tyrrell.
Worst defeat of season so far for Bedford Athletic.Worst defeat of season so far for Bedford Athletic.
Worst defeat of season so far for Bedford Athletic.

Athletic started well and led 25-19 at half-time but succumbed to six second half tries to leave with just a try bonus points for their efforts.

Harpenden were first on the scoreboard in the third minute, but unlike in previous weeks the visitors rallied well and drew level four minutes later when full back Oli Petrides was on hand to touch down for the first try of the day, Leo Mortimer converting for a 7-5 lead.

The away team continued to hold the initiative through the first quarter and Harry Sawford-Smith soon crossed for the second try on 13 minutes, although this effort went unconverted.

Harpenden drew level with a try from their winger Dominic Ashwell, converted by Oli Mann, but Bedford Athletic soon took the lead again, this time the try coming through the forwards, dotted down by Ben Middleton.

Harpenden were once again to score next, with their third try coming on the half hour mark, this time from flanker Barnaby Merrett, Mann’s conversion making the score 19-17.

But Bedford Athletic ended the half in the ascendancy.

From a scrummage that was always going forward, Andy Ince launched from the base in the No.8 position and Josh Cassell came off his wing to punch through the defence and cross for the bonus point try in the 38th minute.

Leo Mortimer capped off a successful first half performance with a penalty to make the score 25-19.

The match was turned on its head in the opening 10 minutes of the second half.

Harpenden came out of the changing rooms with a pace and precision that Bedford simply couldn’t match and in this space of time scored three unanswered tries which were all converted to surge into a 40-25 lead.

The scoreboard was ticking over regularly for the hosts now and they emphasised their dominance with a penalty kick on 61 minutes to stretch the lead to 43-25 before yet another try to scrum half Declan Murphy, together with Mann’s conversion, saw them reach 50 points.

A brief rally from a by now shellshocked and clearly second best Athletic side did lead to a try for hooker Charlie Darlow, converted by Mortimer.

But Harpenden maintained their ascendancy through to the end of the match with two further tries, one of which was converted to finish with nine tries in total, the 30 point deficit resulting in Bedford Athletic's biggest defeat of the season.

The positive from the day was the try bonus point which, with the sides beneath them in the relegation fight all losing, meant that Bedford moved one point and 12 points in total away from the bottom two relegation places with six matches left to play.

The first of these is at home to league leaders Colchester at Putnoe Wood on Saturday with a 3pm kick-off.